Rapper Nipsey Hussle wins two posthumous Grammys, honored in tribute performance

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was slain in March of last year, won two posthumous Grammy Awards on Sunday and was remembered at the Awards with a tribute medley that had audience members on their feet, dancing and in tears.

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Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was shot multiple times on March 31, 2019 outside his Marathon Clothing store in south Los Angeles.

On Sunday, he won Best Rap/Sung Performance for his feature in DJ Khaled’s “Higher” and Best Rap Performance for “Racks in the Middle,” released a few weeks before his death and featuring Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy.

DJ Khaled and John Legend, who was also featured on “Higher,” took the stage to accept the award alongside members of Hussle’s family just a few minutes after performing the song in a tribute to the 33-year-old rapper.

DJ Khaled and Legend both dedicated the award to Hussle.

“We all love him, we all miss him. It is terrible that we had to lose him so early,” Legend said. “Thank you for allowing us to use his legacy and lift it up in song tonight.”

Hussle’s debut studio album, “Victory Lap,” was nominated for Best Rap Album at last year’s Grammy Awards.

He made several mixtapes, which are generally created outside the record label system, before recording “Victory Lap” with Atlantic Records and collaborating with singer and rapper CeeLo Green and Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar.

DJ Khaled, Legend and rapper Meek Mill led the tribute performance to Hussle earlier in the show, which included Hussle’s voice in the background music video of “Higher.”

As plumes of fire lit up the stage, energetic backup dancers dressed in white gold-trimmed robes drew the audience to their feet.

“Long live Nip. Long live Kobe,” DJ Khaled said at the conclusion of tribute.

The performers turned to the back of the stage and pointed at projected images of Hussle and Kobe Bryant, the 41-year-old Los Angeles basketball legend who died in a helicopter crash hours earlier on Sunday and rose to fame playing at the Staples Center, the venue where the Awards took place.

Hussle, who grew up in south Los Angeles, said that he once belonged to a street gang. More recently he had parlayed his fame into a role as a community organizer and activist.

An aspiring rapper was charged with murder in the case and is awaiting trial in Los Angeles. Police have said the two men had a personal dispute that may have led to the shooting.

(This story refiles to correct timeframe for release of “Racks in the Middle”)

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Shri Navaratnam